Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cathedral Stones

One important aspect of my creative process is to look closely at a small section of a thing so that it almost becomes abstract.

When I held my first open studio, showing pictures from the “Images of Earth and Spirit” series, I gave everyone who visited a piece of card with a small square cut out of the centre. I suggested people place the card on any object and look closely at the section that remained visible. That way, the object itself loses its formal identity (eg a piece of wood) and becomes an abstract of colour and texture (the grain).

Interestingly, the person who actually did this – and delighted in it – was a child. (I don’t know what that says about me.) The little girl was running round for ages afterwards placing the piece of card over all sorts of things to see what shapes, colours and textures ‘emerged’.

I do a similar thing when I take photos. I will take a close-up of the surface of water so that it becomes an image of fluidity rather than a picture of a river.

Recently I took some photos of cathedral stones. They were weathered, discoloured and had lichen on them. Close-up they looked like colourful abstracts and had a beauty all of their own. They are pictures of the cathedral though they can not be identified as such.

There’s a similar idea at work in Gestalt therapy. This is a branch of psychotherapy that focuses on the individual's experience in the present moment, rather than the environmental and social contexts in which things take place. It also gets away from the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of the overall situation. (This is obviously a badly simplified explanation).

So, instead of saying “Oh, what a lovely cathedral” and moving on, I aim to focus and look more closely at what is really there. The stone then speaks of solidity, history, purpose – of a natural element, shaped by a person and weathered by nature. The cathedral speaks of God, as does the stone and the lichen.

Thus, it is also possible to see and to know ourselves against the background of our relation to other things.

So I want to look closely at things. To see inside things if possible. To look at a tree and to see the sap – the life force – not just in a material sense, but also in a more mystical sense. The Celts, for instance, saw water not just as H2O (you know what I mean … don’t get clever) but as a mysterious life-giving – and destructive – force of nature. (That’s a part of what I’ve been exploring in my “Walking On Water” series.)

It’s also why I obsessively draw and photograph the same things repeatedly (tree trunks are my current favourite). Drawing is an important artistic discipline because it means I have to LOOK at the thing in front of me. It’s not enough simply to think “Ah, a tree – I know what a tree looks like” and draw a stereotypical tree. The more I look, the more I see. The more closely I look, the more I see the thing for what it really is rather than what I think it is because of my preconditioned response.

I read in a book yesterday that any person, in a single second, communicates 50-100 "messages".
I was thinking about that in a similar way - what can we see in a person in one second? Without looking at the surroundings, the context of that moment, the story or life of that person - just a one-second "snapshot", a close-up. Would it be a totally abstract image? Would it tell us anything about that person, their life, their personality?

I don´t know, but I think sometimes we get a clearer image of what things really are when we take them out of their "context" - which often taints them - and just look at what is actually there.

Your viewfinder idea reminded me of this...
Claire ... Have you read "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell? It's fascinating. It's about how much we "see" in a second and how accurate that often is.
no i haven´t - have you got it?
I'll send it to you. X
That last paragraph about drawing really resonated with me because that IS the reason we should draw, and why it's so important. I will be doing lots of drawing for my new project, and bearing your words in mind
seems to me that claire b is describing non verbal leakage........
LMAO @ 'non-verbal leakage'!
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